Updated: June 27, 2017
One piece of advice I would like to share with readers is something that gets asked to me quite often as a product reviewer and that is how do you get companies to give you products that you can review.
This can be where you negotiate showcasing or partnering with a company to raise brand awareness and in exchange you can receive free products to review, some are review copies that must be returned after the review is completed, but others are compensation as in you get to keep the products as compensation for doing a review.
To understand why company's and brands reach out to bloggers and influencers and give away products in exchange for reviews you have to understand the reasons and benefits to the companies first.
This will help give you insight as to what you can offer them and why they would send out products for free in the first place.
I find that most of the smaller companies still follow the rule “backlinks are king” and are looking to get more links to their company homepage or products links. They are hoping by sending out the products and getting the review they are getting dofollow links and will raise the Page Rank and number of backlinks to their site which will help gain authority in the eyes of the Google engine. You will often note this type of request if the advertiser or company is specifically asking for a link to their homepage in the article and not just a product sales page.
When you showcase a product, especially one you like the advertiser may simply want to raise product awareness and help boost sales. In this case the advertiser will clearly request that you link to the sales page for the product. Some companies will have their own affiliate programs where you can make a percentage of the sale of the product or others will simply sell their products on Amazon and you can be an Amazon affiliate and make a percentage of the sale from that.
You know the company is more interested in sales if they want you to link to the Amazon sales page or any sales page for the product even if it is one through your own affiliate program and they aren't asking for backlinks to the company's own site.
Public Relations is everything in social media as it is in television, brands hire big name actors, singers and more so that awareness can be raised for their brand. The same is true with bloggers, an advertiser is looking for awareness of their brand and if your followers hear you talk about them, the brand name sticks in their mind when they are in the market for something the product offers. Reach a larger group of bloggers and you can potentially reach more people on social media and online than you would by targeting more expensive marketing platforms.
They want opinions and their brand to be known, not just the products. This is the most ideal situation for bloggers where they become brand ambassadors and you are starting to see a lot of players getting into this market where companies don't want a single blog post about their company anymore, but want a long term cooperation. Tap Influence, Famebit and Social Blue Book are 3 companies that are in the market of connecting brands with bloggers and in some cases there are products exchanged and offered in addition to cash compensation for becoming an ambassador for the brand.
Now, knowing those are the primary reasons why companies would give out products for review you can tailor your interest to make sure you are able to offer something of value to those companies. For companies that are interested in the backlink for example, a high Page Rank blog is more appealing to them than say a large Social Media following, but for a company that wants brand awareness your site visitors, RSS subscriber base and social media following is of key interest.
So the next section is steps you need to take to prepare yourself for sending out inquiries to companies who you plan on asking for products to review. This is an ideal checklist of things to have together before you send your inquiry.
Step 1 – Previous Reviews Written and Examples
Before you can go contact a company asking for them to send you free products to review you need to show that you can write high quality and impartial product reviews. You must have at least 3 product reviews written on your blog and once within the past 6 months to show they are recent. Your reviews should be your best work that overview what you liked about the product any improvement areas, experience with unboxing and then using and testing the product. If you also affiliate sell the product you need to keep track of the sales information (more on showcasing sales later). Copy the link for your last 3 highest quality product reviews and keep them on hand for your introductory letter.
Step 2 – Know the Company and Products
Don't just blindly contact a company and ask for anything to send you, you need to have a laser focused target. Specifically know what the company offers, which products and which ones you specifically want to review and why. Have an example of what the product would be used for during the review and what you would like to compare it with if there are other products already reviewed.
Step 3 – Showcasing Sales
If you reviewed other products before where you have done affiliate sales, then take a snapshot of all sales for that companies products over the past year or since the review was written. If you have more than $1,000 in sales (not your commission but total sales cost) then you can use that an example in your pitch to companies, you can show that you can drive sales. Now, $1,000+ in sales may not seem like much to a million dollar corporation, but if they give you one $50 or $100 product and can get $1000+ in sales from giving you that product, it is a return on them as the post, sales will be ongoing. If you have much higher sales volumes, you can go after bigger and higher end products to review.
Step 4 – Showcasing Your Site and Social Media Properties
This is the part where you need to collect the analytics from your site and total number of followers/subscribers/fans in all your social networks and compile it for your introductory letter. This is where you will get your monthly visits/pageviews (average for last 6 months to avoid any spike interference) and your total number of subscribers. If you have over 10k subscribers in any social media networks, list these ones first. If you have less than 1,000 subscribers in a social media network, then don't list it until you have at least 1,000 followers. Also if you have more than 1,000 RSS subscribers you can mention that as a selling point, also if you have a mailing list with more than 1,000 subscribers.
Don't ignore Pinterest, Instagram and Snapchat as social networks, these showcase pictures of products and brands products. Many companies want to see campaigns on Pinterest as well as Twitter/Facebook and if you have more than 500 connections on LinkedIn make sure you include that there as well.
Step 5 – Giveaways
Finally in addition to asking for a product to review, you can always include in the inquiry if the company is willing to provide an additional product that you can giveaway to a reader in a sweepstakes. Let them know that the company will have their brand social media properties added as entries that the entrants musts follow/subscribe and let them know you can even build entries where the entrants have to click on product link and write a comment about why they want the product which can help drive awareness. I suggest running the giveaway on PromoSimple or Gleam.io which are very flexible platforms and give you a much wider range of custom entry types.
Step 6 – Introductory Letter
Now that you have compiled all of the above information you are ready to draft your introductory letter to the company and help try and showcase your site, properties and what you can do for the brand if they are willing to send you a product to review.
Here would be a sample introductory letter that you can use, replace everything in [xxx] and read/remove the notes in () to customize this letter to make it your own.
To whom this may concern at [COMPANY],
I am contacting you on behalf of the excellent team at [YOUR WEBSITE] in regards to getting one or more [PRODUCT A, PRODUCT B…ec] so we can do a review of them for our rapidly growing blog and social media audience. [YOUR WEBSITE] is a [TYPE OF BLOG] blog that enjoys a large readership every month ranging from [Analytics] page views. Our mailing newsletter has over [Add email or RSS subscribers] email subscribers and we also host successful giveaways that draw as many as [highest entry giveaway] entries. Those who have partnered with us have drawn in more than [sales figures] in sales (if you can link to a snapshot or image showing sales). Which is 10-20x the earnings from the cost of just providing a product to review and showcase to our readers.
Here at [Your Site] we do YouTube video reviews, Facebook Fanpage Reviews, Amazon Reviews, Written Blog reviews and showcase products to our readers on a variety of platforms including Pinterest as well. (make sure you remove and/or list all social media networks where you can broadcast awareness about their brand or product)
I am not looking for compensation or charging for doing a review of your products, there is no cost to the company if we get to keep the review copy of the product and use it occasionally, each time it is used we will mention that we used that model for the work we do so the promotion is constantly and ongoing with our partners. Please let me know if this would be of interest, and/or if you can forward this request to the right department if your department doesn't handle review copies for media/press. Also, if it is possible to get a 2nd copy of the product that we can giveaway to readers in a sweepstakes we could add your brand's social media entries as entrant options as well as have readers click on your products link and leave comments/feedback as to why they want the product as part of the entry options. We also collect emails of most of the entrants and can share those with you for purposes of a marketing newsletter to help raise additional awareness for your brand and products.
In addition to the review article being published on the blog, it will be promoted multiple times across my social media entities
[LIST all of your properties here and # of followers]
http://www.facebook.com/[YOURPAGE] #### fans
http://www.twitter.com/[YOURTWITTER] #### followers
http://www.pinterest.com/[YOURPINTEREST] #### subscribers
http://www.linkedin.com/[[YOURPROFILE] #### connections
http://www.youtube.com/[YOURCHANNEL] #### subscribers
Owner of [Your Blog}
[Your Phone Number]
Now, the letter is not the final step, the final step is follow up. You may not hear back from companies on just an email so as an added measure try to find out if there is a press or release contact for the company that you can call by phone and follow up with a phone call. If you can't find any live person to call on the phone, then you can call the support desk and ask if they have a press or sales phone number they can transfer you to. Finally, you can send a follow up email 1 week after sending the initial email asking if they had a chance to review your email and if they are willing to partner with you to help raise brand awareness.
My last bit of advice is to start off with the small companies until you build up a comfort level with doing product reviews. Also, having a number of small partnerships helps solidify your standing and will help you reach bigger brands. Don't give up and keep at it, if you never got a response back from a brand then give it 6 months and try again.
Be persistent and don't give up, no response is the worst and keep pestering until you get a response even if it is a know at least make sure you get known and a response.